With COVID-19 continuing to surge across the globe, a coalition of pharmaceutical companies including Thousand Oaks-based Amgen has announced a joint trial for new coronavirus treatments.
Amgen, along with Takeda and UCB, are now collaborating to study methods of treatment for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19, the three companies announced. The trial enrolled its first patient on Nov. 30. The companies have dubbed it “Community,” which is an abbreviation for “COVID-19 Multiple Agents and Modulators Unified Industry Members.”
The intent of the program is not to develop a vaccine for the virus, but to discover the best way to treat COVID-19 patients either in a hospital’s intensive care unit or general population.
“Working hand-in-hand with our peers, we hope to find options that could potentially save lives of the patients who will need treatments for COVID-19 before widespread availability of a vaccine,” Dr. David M. Reese, Amgen’s executive vice president for research and development, said in a company news release.
Amgen shares opened at $224.88 on Dec. 1, the day after the announcement, up 1.3% from the previous day’s close.
The new effort will operate as most clinical testing trials do, with one group of patients receiving the medication and the other receiving a placebo, but the tag-team approach will allow for multiple medications to be tested in the same trial.
One big upside of Community is the sharing of data and study results between the three pharmaceutical companies, theoretically lessening the amount of time it will take to determine the best method of treatment. Due to the international reach of COVID-19, the program plans to have sites in Brazil, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and a number of other countries along with its U.S-based operations.
Inflammation in vascular and immune systems has been linked to people experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms, and while the initial therapeutics used in Community will be designed to stop inflammation, the companies are not ruling out expanding to other therapies in the future.
Amgen’s anti-inflammatory medication, Otezla, is the only medicine officially entered in the program, but Takeda and UCB’s anti-inflammatory medications are expected to enter within the next few weeks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with all other health authorities, has yet to approve any of these three medications for widespread use, making them “investigational,” the companies stated.
The program is a part of the COVID-19 R&D Alliance, an international group of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies dedicated to managing and eradicating the virus.
Pharmaceutical companies are closer than ever to solutions for COVID-19, and the coming weeks and months are of paramount importance in learning how close these companies are to cracking the code.
The announcement of Community came on the same day that Moderna, one of the two leaders in creating a COVID-19 vaccine, filed for permission to begin giving the vaccine out before Christmas. Pfizer has requested emergency rollout too, as both companies showed rates of well over 90% effectiveness in their latest trial stages.